Life-long Manchester United fan, Fred Done, has always been a betting man, even before he launched what would become one of the biggest bookmakers in the whole of the UK.
In fact, it was a wager on England winning the World Cup in 1966 that earned him the capital to start his business in the first place, but he stepped things up a level in 2004, when he offered all other bookmakers a private wager of £1 million than his beloved Manchester United would finish above Chelsea that season.
The London side had just sacked their manager, and brought in a manager new to the Premier League called Jose Mourinho. Manchester United, meanwhile, were still under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson and had just signed Everton wonderkid Wayne Rooney, so you can understand Fred’s confidence.
He hoped the bet would get him into the Guinness Book of Records, and commented that the money would go to charity if he won, so it wasn’t about profit, more of a publicity stunt.
Done offered the bet of £1 million to any takers, but only one man took him up on the offer.
That man was Victor Chandler who, at the time, was still running the famous bookmaker started by his Grandfather many years earlier, BetVictor.
Man Utd Finish 3rd
Unfortunately for Fred Done, he is much better at laying bets than making them.
With 6 games still to go, and Manchester United trailing first place Chelsea by 14 points, Fred threw in the towel and paid out early; something he had done before in 2002 in a disastrous lack of judgement.
He paid out early on Man Utd winning the league only for Arsenal to eventually steal the title by a single point, which even earned him the wrath of Fergie who told him to never do it again!
Nevertheless, Fred Done was certain his bet was lost this time, and showed he is as good as his word by stumping up the cash right away – and with a smile too.
He personally delivered the money along with a Manchester United shirt on which he had written, “To Victor, the victor, with my best wishes.”
It was classy behaviour from Fred Done, who had this to say:
“I’ve been in betting all my life. I like to take and play a good bet. The man was brave enough to take it on. I’m going to go right into his offices with a £1m cheque and hand it over.”
“We had no written contract over this. It was just over the phone. I have absolutely no doubt that if I had won the bet, that it would have been honoured by Victor.”
“I’m not sorry. I will live to fight another day. It’s a lot of money to most people and they are probably thinking I’m crazy. But risk is the nature of my business and sometimes things go against you.”
You can say what you like about bookmakers, but Fred Done showed he is man enough to take a loss as well as make a profit that day, and he did it happily too.